Love Actually

Do you remember the first time you watched Love Actually? Neither do I. It has become a rite of passage, no year is complete without a viewing of Richard Curtis’ magnum opus, which now resonates around the world.

Many say that it completes their festive season, and while I would agree with this to an extent, it must be said: Love Actually is not just a Christmas film.

The film, as I’m sure we’re all aware, follows the lives of 10 groups of people around Christmastime as their friendships, love lives and family ties link them together in different ways. Although the narrative is framed by the festive countdown, the fact remains that the plot centres around love, actually.

There tends to be a confusion more generally between films that are about Christmas, and those that are set during that time window. The former tend to feel out of place mid-July and focus on family, dinners, and men in big red suits. They are made to represent an onscreen embodiment of the holiday, disregarding more traditional concerns of fiction. The latter can be about anything – everyone will just probably be wearing a coat and drinking mulled wine.

Love Actually is considered to be a Christmas film in its content because we associate ideals of love, care and general decency, the ones promoted in the film, with the winter holidays. However, what if we encouraged these values all year round?

Love Actually sets up a number of situations which don’t necessarily need to be set at Christmas. Sam dreams about “the one”, Colin leaves the continent to find what he’s been looking for, and Mark deals with what it’s like to be without her. We now have scenes of running through an airport, holding up hand drawn signs on a doorstep and proposing to someone in Portuguese in a dozy french restaurant, all scenes that are iconic and most importantly timeless, thanks to the storytelling power of director and writer Richard Curtis, which manages to transcend its seasonal context.

The films of Richard Curtis (let’s now also thank him for About Time, Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral) benefit from a sense of proximity to the viewer. The director balances idealistic narratives with approachable and endearingly flawed characters who reassure viewers that their time will come too, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

Tinsel and turkey may only be seasonally on trend, but love isn’t a festive fad. Richard Curtis struck gold with Love Actually by creating characters that audiences love, and cleverly heightening the emotional stakes by setting it during the most wonderful time of the year. So by all means – get in the spirit and count down to Christmas with Love Actually. But maybe take it for a spin next Summer and just see what it can do for you then too.

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